11 Years and I just learned my husband gives names to his notebooks. I noticed this by accident, as I turned to the first page of a clean lined book and saw a drawing of “39¢” in bubble numbers.
“Why did you doodle the price tag?” I asked him.
“It’s the name of the book!”
“You name your books?”
“Of course, I do,” he said with the loudest invisible DUH! “You knew that.”
I wondered if he had told me this and I had forgotten?
He doesn’t leave the house without a notebook and pen in his back pocket. Each one is unique, hardcover, moleskin, softcover, spiral bound. They get covered in overlapping stickers he collects from life (or NYC street lamps or concerts) and the books themselves evolve into graffitied pieces of art to be filled with poetry, quotes, screenplay ideas, stand up comedy bits, sketches of me. That’s the thing about an artist, whatever he touches, turns to gold.
He will doodle a female shape on a gum wrapper and write my name on it and I will fold it in two and put in my unorganized scrapbook drawer. He twisted and reshaped the metal piece from a champagne cork into a little chair with a heart back and this now lives behind glass with the signed books. I love restaurants with paper placemat because I’m guaranteed to get a drawing. I could stare at my husband’s hands at work for hours; it never fails to amaze me to witness his hands manipulate a tool and transform something into meaningful shapes and figures. For him, creating art isn’t a challenge; it flows from him with the ease of an exhaling breath. I love pretty things and he loves to make them.
I don’t throw around the word, “talent” lightly. “Talent,” to me, is akin to the word, “love.” I’m from the good ole days when you valued “love” more than your virginity. I recognize talent. His hands look like they’d create greatness. “You could be a hand model,” I told him the first day we met. His nail beds were divine and cuticles, invisible; perfect hand proportions, very symmetrical and covered in freckles, like glitter.
When we travel, he packs “just a little bag” of art supplies (not including photography equipment). Within the heavily reused plastic bag are “just the basics”: watercolors, a few tubes of acrylics, charcoals, several graphite pencils, pens, a bottle of ink (with or without quills), and some sort of pad of thick paper (which I always feel bad using because it’s so expensive). He won’t use the materials every day but one day I’ll close my eyes for 20 minutes on the beach and open them to discover a breathtaking watercolor of the ocean, the mountains, and me (with a better body). It took me those same twenty minutes to remember the name of the organic sunscreen my friend told me about as I obsessively stared at the patterns on the insides of eyelids.
At a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I boasted to everyone about my man’s ability to produce art anywhere out of anything. As evidence, he grabbed a chopstick, some soy sauce, and dab by dab, made a soy sauce portrait of our daughter, on a napkin.
He has a photographic memory and can paint, with accurate detail, every toy from his childhood bedroom, college, and every apartment afterwards. His eyes record things I don’t notice in colors I don’t see. He’ll paint the shag on the carpet and the posters with the proper lettering. He’ll replicate a 70s plaid on a couch with precision and while he doesn’t paint photo-realistically, the tattered brown teddy bear he drew on the edge of his childhood bed represented an entire era with a toy.
On a long train ride through Italy 8 years ago, my artist sat diligently sketching a man sitting across the aisle from us. As always I sat with my mouth wide open, watching what seemed like a miracle; a drawing slowly emerging on the previously blank white paper. I have always envied this skill; learning to draw is on my bucket list.
“Anyone can draw,” my freckled artist said to me and grabbed a plastic ice tea bottle from his backpack and put it on the flip drown tray in front of me. “Draw this bottle,” he instructed me. He sketched and painted a dozen passengers before I finished drawing of the bottle. I presented my work to him with my head bowed down. He reacted like a proud teacher, beaming, almost patting me on the back. “You see,” he shoved the picture in my face, “I told you that you can draw! You know why this is good? It’s in the details.”
When you live with an artist, it quite literally rubs off on you; decorating your walls, spilling from your drawers, and requiring an extra storage space on top of it all. But living with an artist can feel like a free acid trip without the LSD; a perpetual magnifying glass held up over your eyes to help you see life’s beautiful details. It will take three times as long to go down the street, but you will appreciate it ten times as much.
I wasn’t looking for love when I met my husband and I certainly wasn’t looking for art. But I’ve learned perfect love is just like perfect art: magic. It’s been an unexpected gift to gain access to the secret workings of the artist’s mind – step by step – through his heart.